Calderon picks Pistons to play for Casey – and to be part of ‘a really good team’

David Sherman (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

LAS VEGAS – If Jose Calderon was willing to sign a veteran’s minimum contract, such is his reputation built over 13 years in the NBA – not to mention his acclaimed work with a powerhouse Spanish national team – that he could have virtually picked his destination.

He picked the Pistons for two overriding reasons. One is Dwane Casey. The other is … well, let Calderon explain it.

“I think that we can be a good team. That’s why I’m here more than anything.”

And Calderon showed last season that he can still be a contributor on a good team. With Cleveland, which reached the NBA Finals, Calderon averaged 4.5 points and 2.1 assists in 16 minutes a game while shooting an eye-popping .464 from the 3-point arc.

He’ll likely slot in behind Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith at point guard, but Casey – who had Calderon on the roster he inherited when he landed in Toronto in 2011 – won’t hesitate to use two point guards at a time and Calderon could allow Jackson to play off the ball while serving as a lethal 3-point threat to spread the floor.

“I think he’s a great coach all around,” Calderon said. “I think he showed that in Toronto. I think he got guys better. He played his young guys if he had to. He played team basketball and I think that’s important for us with the team we have. He’ll make everybody accountable and he’ll be good for the team, for sure.”

It wasn’t only Casey interested in adding Calderon to the mix. Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski was also with Calderon when he was part of Toronto’s front office as executive vice president of basketball operations. Another part of Calderon’s appeal – especially with Anthony Tolliver’s departure in free agency – is his leadership skills and insight into Casey for how he’ll convey his values in the locker room.

“Getting a player like Jose, who is another chemistry piece, great in the locker room, it’s a guy we felt we needed with Tolliver moving on,” Stefanski said. “Coach is comfortable – the trust there – having coached him so long and knowing what Jose’s going to bring.”

Calderon said Casey’s forthrightness is critical to his uncanny ability to foster strong relationships with players and envisions that having a positive impact on the Pistons.

“He’s been always honest with me. He’s straightforward,” Calderon said. “He’s going to tell you the things he thinks. I think that makes you respect your coach and respect what he wants to do as a team. He’s all about the team.”

Andre Drummond is the only teammate still on the roster from Calderon’s first stint with the Pistons. He came from Toronto on Jan. 30, 2013 in a three-team deal that sent Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to Memphis. Drummond and Calderon sat courtside together on Saturday at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion as the Pistons played Memphis in an NBA Summer League game along with Glenn Robinson III, who agreed to terms with the Pistons on the first day of free agency last week.

But Calderon is aware of the talent that’s been accrued since then, starting with Blake Griffin, and he sees the opportunity to compete at the top of the Eastern Conference with LeBron James having left to sign with the Lakers.

“For sure, it’s wide open. You could say maybe Boston or Philly or whatever, but everybody there is pretty close. I think it’s going to be more about matchups, about chemistry, who has injuries.

“I was looking for a team that was ready to win and ready to go to the next level. I think we are in position to be a really good team and I think it was a great opportunity for me to help the team.”